Tuesday 8 February 2011

Finding The Future What?

Long ago when the world was young, both knees were working and I could contemplate eighty minutes of continuous activity often my place was on a muddy wet stretch of ground with posts and a cross bar usually about half way up. How many times did I smell the wind, place the ball and hope the kick was right?

Amongst the many places where this strange ritual occurred were colleges of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. They were not favoured places to go to on the whole. Often the baths were cold, the food disgusting and such beer that they were allowed to consume thin, expensive and close to goat’s products and not milk.

Also, the local entertainment was not up to much and female company nowhere in sight. I and the other members of the team were very glad to be on the coach as quickly as possible to make it back to London.

On the other hand when we entertained a team from one of these colleges it was almost pathetic to see the sense of wonder they had at the delights of metropolitan living.

Which is why so many of my class and background never considered going to these colleges in the first place. However, some did and many had school examination results that were very scruffy indeed. It did help that they were very good at one sport or another and potential blues and in some cases had unusual military service.

Even then there were those at “Oxbridge” who were mindful that historically many colleges had made provision for poor scholars. In the 1970’s tutors roamed the Yorkshire mining districts trying to persuade pupils in comprehensive schools to apply without success, for more or less the same reasons that my generation did.

This is all a long time ago and in the 21st Century there are other matters that we consider important. Oxbridge does not quite fit, but then it never did. Looking back down the centuries it always seemed to be “out of sync’ ” with the wider world outside. Why this is necessarily “bad” is a mystery.

The problem seems to be that the political media class of the UK looks at itself (it spends most of it’s time doing this) and decides that it is not typical and should have more of “them” or at least allow entry. But the problem there arises after University and the way that class is formed and recruited.

Oxbridge has other functions, which in the scale of human affairs may be more important. Science, medicine, engineering, astronomy and a range of other fields of study form the critical mass. The motley bunch of lawyers and political history students have always comprised the intellectual backside of Oxbridge, so what changes?

Leave mad social engineering to the former local technical colleges now styled universities and ensure their studies and degrees are good for real work in the real world and doubtless if their graduates are good enough they will go far enough.

At least they will get better beer and balanced company.

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